John McCain has described the essence of his foreign policy thinking in this way, "I am an idealist, and I believe it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure, and American ideals that are transforming the world, the principles of free people and free markets, advance even farther than they have." Three of his top foreign policy advisers are Randy Scheunemann, Robert Kagan, and William Kristol, they are all also project directors for the Project for the New American Century, a group formed when President Clinton was in the White House around what many foreign policy experts say are neoconservative ideals. McCain has a plan for a "League of Democracies," which is envisioned as a group of similar minded nations that would act outside of the United Nations against threats to international security, and it is seen as agreeable with neoconservative ambitions. It is more or less a means to supersede the United Nations, when the United States chooses to do so, so as to have a veil of 'international approval' for a proposed intervention.
Douglas C. Foyle, a professor of government at Wesleyan University, calls a speech McCain made in Los Angeles a re-imagining of McCain's deeply held neoconservative beliefs, "He's talking about idealism with realistic tendencies but he's still talking about God and destiny for the United States, which is very neoconservative." So we see in McCain's foreign policy thinking a serious messianic streak, a tendency that would have him going around the world and supplanting tyranny by replacing it with U.S. client regimes. McCain has also referred to his own foreign policy as a departure from Bush's approach, but so far we're getting a picture that is not very dissimilar to George W. Bush's foreign policy M.O.
In the summer of 2002, Policy Review published an article by Robert Kagan where he spoke of a fundamental parting of ways between Europe and the U.S. Kagan wrote that a decrease in European military power, "has produced a powerful European interest in inhabiting a world where strength doesn't matter, where international law and international institutions predominate, where unilateral action by powerful nations is forbidden, where all nations regardless of their strength have equal rights and are equally protected by commonly agreed-upon international rules of behavior." Isn't this the world most decent peace loving people would want for humanity? A world where international law is followed by every nation, and where none of the great powers take rogue state-like actions (which the U.S. has many times)? Not surprisingly, this is the world that the neoconservatives decry, they refuse to believe that the international community could actually attain this kind of 'utopian' vision (even though their whole worldview is based upon a utopian vision). What is the neoconservative conclusion? It is that we (the United States) must go out into the world and spread our idyllic vision, via the barrel of the gun, if that's what is 'necessary' (when I say our ideas I use that term loosely, considering the neoliberal 'paradise' that has been created in Iraq).
Bloomberg News has opined that, while there is a public perception that John McCain may be "less bellicose" than Bush, in reality McCain is as content "to stay the course in Iraq and more confrontational" on a wide array of other foreign policy matters than George W. Bush. "On Russia and China, he is clearly more hawkish than Bush" said Ken Weinstein, of the Hudson Institute. The strongly conservative Cato Institute has called John McCain's foreign policy judgment "alarmingly bad". And Ivo Daalder, a former National Security Council aide to President Clinton, and no dove himself, has stated, "This is a man who hasn't seen a country he doesn't want to bomb or invade."
To hear McCain tell it, there is apparently no conflict situation anywhere in the world that cannot achieve a resolution by the intercession of U.S. military forces. This fervor for interventionism is a long way from the hard-headed realism of the young congressman who challenged Ronald Reagan's decision to send peacekeepers to Lebanon by asking, "What peace?" If McCain becomes president, in addition to hostility with the Arabs and the Persians, we'd soon be at odds with the Russians as well. The G-8, says McCain, should be "a club of leading market democracies: It should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia." McCain sees Russia as one the rogue states he'd like to transform, and a John McCain in the White House could potentially launch a plan for Russian regime change.
McCain, is currently trying to reshape himself as a 'maverick for real change', but he has never really been a critic of the central thrust of George W. Bush's foreign policy worldview. He has attacked the Bush administration's conduct of the War in Iraq, but nearly entirely on the grounds of mismanagement and errors in judgment, while remaining loyal to the neoconservative messianic project of ending all tyranny wherever it may exist on the globe. In fact, McCain would go even further than Bush in this regard, calling for a "rogue state rollback"; and surely everyone remembers McCain's singing of "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of a Beach Boys song, in the midst of his campaign.
In the late 80's and early 90's McCain was trying to grease the wheels for a project of the University of Arizona to erect deep space telescopes on national forest lands at the summit of Mt. Graham. This land hosts more than 18 endangered plants and animals, the most famous of which is the Mt. Graham red squirrel, found in no other region. Mt. Graham is not only an ecological wonder, it is also a sacred mountain to the San Carlos Apache Amerindians.
In 1992, Robin Silver and Bob Witzeman went to discuss Mt. Graham with McCain in his office in Phoenix. The doctors say that at the mere mention of the words Mount Graham McCain erupted into a violent fury. "He slammed his fists on his desk, scattering papers across the room", Silver said. "He jumped up and down, screaming obscenities at us for at least 10 minutes. He shook his fists as if he was going to slug us. It was as violent as almost any domestic abuse altercation." Witzeman left the meeting in shock, "I'm a lifelong environmentalist, but what really scares me about McCain is not his environmental policies, which are horrid, but his violent, irrational temper. I think McCain is so unbalanced that if Vladimir Putin told him something he didn't like he'd lose it, start beating his chest about having his finger on the nuclear trigger. Who knows where it would stop. To my mind, McCain's the most likely senator to start a nuclear war."